Field Hockey

by Developing Agility and Quickness
Kinetic Select September 2021


This excerpt from Developing Agility and Quickness provides a needs analysis for field hockey and possible program design options for optimal performance outcomes.

The following is an exclusive excerpt from the book Developing Agility and Quickness, Second Edition, published by Human Kinetics. All text and images provided by Human Kinetics.

Field hockey is an intermittent sport that requires athletes to execute a wide variety of motor skills, such as acceleration, deceleration, and multiple CODs throughout a match (8, 9). A typical (i.e., high school or college) match consists of two 35-minute halves with a 5- to 10-minute break between the two. In contrast, elite-level international competitions are divided into four 15-minute quarters with 2-minute breaks after the first and third quarters and a 10-minute break at the half.

Success in the sport of field hockey depends on the ability to perform repeated agility tasks and acceleration efforts during a game (4, 5, 8, 10). According to observational research, a typical field hockey match consists of more than 500 CODs, with a new pattern employed about every 8 to 11 seconds (6). These efforts are coupled with multiple sprints lasting from 1.8 to 3.1 seconds, and generally up to 20 meters (21.9 yd) per bout (7). These repeat sprint efforts may occur as often as 6 or 7 times per minute (1) with approximately 20 to 60 sprints per game (7).

A few fundamental concepts should be considered before developing an agility and quickness training program for field hockey players. For instance, many spend a good majority of the game in a semi-crouched position while dribbling, defending, and contesting for the ball because of the short size of the field hockey stick. From a performance standpoint, transitioning from the semi-crouched position (athletic position) to sprinting or changing direction effectively requires mastering the basic movements such as the crossover step, open step, shuffling, and sprinting while using good body mechanics (2, 3). Furthermore, since the athletes are required to carry a hockey stick, velocity may be reduced compared to when an athlete is running without an implement (11). Therefore, it is important to use the implement as a progression when training to provide the greatest transfer of skill to the field and to practice.


In training for physical preparation, it is important to train movement patterns from the least complex to the most complex. This allows the coach to help athletes develop specific physical traits in a systematic and logical fashion. The specific training targets that use this hierarchy model include

  1. developing the necessary qualities of COD speed, quickness, and agility to maneuver an open playing field and execute sport-specific tasks (i.e., receive, carry, distribute, or contest the ball),
  2. develop first-step quickness to evade opponents and invade the oppos­ing team’s territory, and
  3. develop the ability to read and react to specific situations, opponents, and teammates in practice scenarios and games.

This purposed hierarchy model for improving field hockey specific agility has three phases focused on specific training goals arranged in a systematic and progressive manner. Each of these phases represents a distinct training season and each phase is designed to enhance the next. Throughout these phases it is important to monitor the acute training variables (i.e., intensity, volume, and frequency) as training progresses from off-season through pre­season and in-season. These variables also aid in tracking accumulated load (e.g., total sprint distance), which can help determine the athlete’s levels of fatigue. Finally, when training for quickness and agility, quality of movement always overrules quantity and, therefore, should take precedence regardless of the training season. Table 9.5 provides sample training parameters specifically for agility, COD speed, and quickness for each season.

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